Narique Sangster and Tawfeeq Edwards
I write this as a believer, a husband, a father and as a human.
Before reading it is important to remember that my partner enjoyed a low risk pregnancy. I am writing from this perspective and do not intend any disrespect to the many people who suffer from fertility issues or have lost children in the birth process, this is also a reality for some and the magnitude of the task for both mother and child must be treated with the utmost respect. In this light, thank you, for allowing me the honour of sharing our miracle.
It was around 11.30am when I got the call from my wife, Narique. “I just had a show.” Excitement engulfed my thoughts and trying to work was like navigating a cave of shrieking bats. My colleagues kept looking at me and asking me when I was going to leave, I never told anyone, but I think my face had a show too. I did my best to follow all the advice we were given, the midwives said to carry on as normal in the early phases of labour, I understand now 2 weeks later, how they could imagine first time parents would take that advice. The intensity of the experience slowly left me even minutes after my son was born. Eventually I left and picked up my wife, fortunately that day we had our final consultation with the midwives at Birth Options. We met with Glynis who confirmed our suspicions. We were about to meet our son! Laughter and excitement ensued as we made our way home to prepare for the night ahead, even stopping over at one of the future grannies for a quick chat. We got home and I convinced Narique to have a nap while I picked up the final items off our home birth list. Great! No more lists!! Lists for baby clothing! Lists for your nursery! List of emergency numbers! The lists were coming to an end. I am reminded of something I told my wife who was feeling a bit listless on one of those really tough-fat-I-don’t-know-what-I’m-doing-I’m-so-pregnant days. “His not some kind of monster, he is a person; all he needs is love, food and warmth.” Without trivialising the remarkable miracle of the biology (Supreme Architecture) that goes into the creation of a baby, we tend to over complicate things in the information age, 2 weeks have passed and I realised most of the information we had crammed into our brains over the past 9 months had since been long forgotten and we were both operating purely on instinct, with some hit and miss results, but so far, so good. Lists destroyed, I returned home to find my wife calmly lying in bed, she mentioned something of her discomfort being akin to heavy period pains but we were still both too excited to pay it any mind. Her minor contractions had begun at 7.30AM, it was now 7.30PM. “This isn’t too bad”, I thought to myself while perusing my notes on labour stages and average times for first time labour. I wondered what all the fuss was about. Trying to follow the advice of the midwives I lay down closing my eyes, with every attempt at sleep being battered by my runaway trains of thought.
It was 10PM and Narique was now visibly in pain. I tried rubbing, I tried warming. I tried words. The pain stayed. I had an epiphany sometime between 10PM and 12AM that saved this experience for me. Men are required to be MacGyver’s, the solution to all problems; we have all heard it before: stop being such a girl and be a man. Yet here I was watching my wife do something I could never do. I was in awe. I let go of my need to fix-it and for the next few hours I gave all my power to her, I trusted her and I accepted any outcome, we are after all subject to the whims of the cosmic dance. Then again, what was the point of soaking up all the statistics on birth mortality versus healthy births and watching agonizing birth videos only to give over worrying that is neither rational nor productive? I guess I tricked myself into believing it was all going to be okay even though I was completely unsure if that was the truth. As a partner assisting in the birth process, your partner is your only line to what is going on. Only she knows where she needs to go and only she can go there. So take a step back and watch your lady show you what it means to “be a man”.
12AM and I can’t take it anymore. My wife is squirming on our bed during contractions, standing up and moving was no longer comfortable. 3 mother fucker of contractions in 10 minutes the midwives emphasized. I couldn’t wait for that, it was about 2 in 10 minutes. I didn’t care even though my wife was two minded. I needed help as much as she did. I needed some assurance that all of this is normal. How could this be normal? I watched the videos, it seems normal, but now it’s Narique, how can this be normal? I called and to my delight Susan answered, “I will be there in an hour”. Susan says. A whole hour I thought to myself? The time went really quickly and by about 1AM Susan had arrived and set up all the bits and bobs you apparently need when delivering a baby. It’s a lot less than I imagined, but I am relieved to have someone else here.
Susan and I have a cup of tea and I realize from her relaxed demeanour that I probably called about an hour too early. She insists that it’s all okay and we must do whatever we feel comfortable with. Susan then performs an internal exam on Narique and she is 4cm dilated. Active labour has begun. I expected screaming, blood and horror. I watch as Narique progresses, over the course of 2 hours. Moaning becomes sobbing. Sobbing turns into shouting. It’s torturous, but I keep fighting my instinct to try and do something and instead do what I can, sit and watch, offer kind words, insist that she drinks water and doing my utmost to be there with her, the temptation to crawl away and hide in some deep crevice of my mind is great. The time melts away and it is now 3AM. Susan, seemingly encouraged by my now screaming wife enters the room and prepares for another examination. The calm aura that surrounds these women is something to behold as she moves through our home like sweet rays of morning sun. After this internal exam we are now at 6cm. We are approaching transition, but critically, Narique’s waters have not broken yet, apparently, with each contraction, “They are bulging nicely.” We are consulted as to whether we consent to a manual breaking of the waters and we both agree, not something we even considered before but convinced by Susan that it would speed up the process, we agree. Susan contacts her assistant as she will need help once the baby arrives. 3.15AM and the waters break.
A deluge of emotions come with the waters. My wife, in pain. Our bed, lined with bloody linen savers. My head, empty, no capacity for thought. When the waters break there is a sudden and visible change in Narique’s demeanour. She moved from mindful to instinctive. Before she was still her thoughts, now she is just a body trying to push out another. Anyone who doubts the animalistic nature buried beneath us will have their reservations bowed by birth in its unadulterated form. Society truly is a picture painted floating over a thin veneer of chaos, the miracle of birth has turned this knowledge into wisdom for us. She is writhing with pain, as if her flesh is burning. Her eyes focussed. Her grip, steel claws. I hold her hand and try to whisper words of encouragement; it’s as if my voice is frozen by the screams. I decide to keep quiet after my last attempts at words are brutally shushed by my ordinarily gentle wife. Susan allows me a reprieve when she asks me to direct her assistant Lou-Anne to our home. I leave momentarily and return about 5 minutes later with Lou-Anne.
Things are really intense now and at about 4AM Lou Anne and Susan are crouched over my wife holding her legs as she pushes. Push. Scream. Breathe. Push. Scream. Breathe. Hold her head up Tawfeeq. That’s all you have to do. Wait! Hold this tray, Narique’s body is in expulsion mode. Tray now filled with vomit and nowhere to put mine, I swallow it back down. Still nothing. She is spent. Sweat runs down her face as she gathers herself for the next contraction. More pain and more of nothing. I can see it in her eyes, she feels hopeless. These brutal minutes feel like hours. Each contraction becomes a lung bursting endeavour. I look over at Susan and she nods at me as if to say this is okay. This is normal. It might happen every day, but it is not normal. It is extraordinary. Susan tells Narique that she is going to let her rest and do whatever she feels like doing, whatever feels natural to her for the next few minutes. The midwives leave the room and it’s just us now. The three of us, exhausted, but I can’t complain. I don’t have a uterus. The contractions don’t seem to distinguish between alert and worn-out and they continue chewing away, my wife crawls off the bed onto the floor, she tries to stand. She can’t stand. She crouches on all fours, on the floor, gripping the edge of our bed. She screams. She is grabbing at thin air, looking around at the floor as if her thoughts lay scattered all over it. Blood curdling screams. She tenses her entire body, veins jut out of her swollen limbs. Animal screams. She catches breath between each contraction, her eyes focussed on some imaginary place on the floor. Murderous screams. No! Life giving screams. For the first time in 2 hours she looks at me and smiles. “He is coming! Our baby is coming.” Her eyes lit up. It was a special moment for both of us. Quickly, we get her onto the bed and pushing begins again. She seems more resolved than before and filled with hope again. A few contractions later and he is crowning. “Narique, I want you to listen to me. You need to breathe the baby out. Pant.” Shoo.Shoo.Shooo.Shoooo. Shooooo. “Get ready to hold your baby. Narique, are you ready to hold your baby?” said Susan. Narique replies “Huh?” 4.53AM my wife is holding our baby. I can’t believe it, I still can’t. They did it.
In the days that follow, people congratulate me on the birth of my son and for witnessing the birth. My wife insists that she would not have done it without me. This is a sweet and beautiful lie. The process of birth began 9 months ago and her healthy and youthful body did what it was designed to do. This is not always the case, for this we are blessed. Women have the utter violence and brutality of life blown into them and from it serenity and peace is born. The fathers role is less carefully designed by nature but equally important. We need to rely on a less instinctual calling to fulfil our purpose, for some things just can’t be fixed with a strong arm. Respect for the miracle is just the beginning of my transformation into a father.